A MelanieM Review: 7&7 – Anthology of Virtue and Vice by Andrea Speed , Carole Cummings, Rick R. Reed, John Inman, Serena Yates, Clare London, J. Tullos Hennig

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Rating: 4.25 out of 5

7 & 7 AnthologyHumankind possesses a dual nature, the ability to rise to the brightest heights—or sink to the darkest and most perverse depths.

What inspires some to reach the pinnacles of virtue while others cannot resist the temptations of vice? Is it something innate, or a result of destiny and circumstance?

Delve into the minds and spirits of saints and sinners alike with a collection of stories that explore the call toward good or evil—and the consequences of answering it. For while rewards certainly await the righteous, there are also pleasures to be found in the darkness. Venture off the expected path with some of the most innovative voices in LGBT speculative fiction as they present their unique takes on the classic vices and virtues.

Many authors including: Andrea Speed, Brandon Witt, Sean Michael, J Tullos Hennig, Carol Cummings, Rick R. Reed, John Inman, Rhys Ford, Clare London, Pearl Love, Jamie Fessenden, J. S. Cook, Amy Rae Durresson, Serena Yates

I found this to be an absolutely wonderful  anthology…however not if you are looking for stories of romance exactly.  This anthology is released from DSP Publications which means its stories are less romance based and more driven towards content elsewhere, which in some cases here is horror.  That’s fine, if those are not to your taste, skip over them and proceed to the next.  This is a wonderful smorgasbord of authors and a wonderful way to taste their various narrative talents.

Which ones were some of my absolute favorites?

Heirs to Grace and Infinity by C. Cummings – 5 stars (31 pages)

Urban fantasy in which a fugitive sorcerer matches wits with the bureau’s top agent to save children.  Its imaginative, wonderful in its world building and keeps you on your seat.  It was just terrific in every way from the characters to the plot. C. Cummings is one of my favorite authors. This is why.

Hope by Rick Reed – 5 stars out of 5 (47 pages)

Looking for hope in crises around a mother’s death and one’s personal life.  This was such a deeply moving story of loss and hope.  One man moves home to his mother’s house after she’s died, to deal with the aftermath of her loss.  His grief, those of her friends who loved and took care of her…and the house that’s now his and the new location.  Its powerful, moving and so beautifully done.

The Darkness of the Sun by Amy Rae Durreson – 4.5 stars out of 5 (41 pages)

A grieving Priest finds his faith.  Another story that is based in loss and takes a different tack altogether.  The author has a wonderful feel  for the trail and the life of this simple priest who has lost his way.

Prudence for Fools by Sean Michael – 4.5 stars out of 5 (41 pages)

A disgraced seer is thrown out of court and returns to the tribe of his husband but is haunted by his visions.  I loved this  story by Sean Michael.  This seer and his husband, a couple of long years, are wonderful and their relationship is one I connected to immediately.  Michael pulls us into this world and the situation quickly.  Another story that could have filled twice its pages.  I found it gripping, the couple moving in their deeply loving relationship and the tribe is one I wanted to learn more about.

Red Light Special by Rhys Ford – 4.5 stars out of 5 (38 pages)

An Elf, a Knight and a Succubus plus Detroit and one of my favorite authors who writes with snark, a vividness thats startling and a pizazz that flies off the page.  Really.  This is a story that needs no review.  Just read it.  It works.  It hilarious and sexy.

Horseboy by J. Tullos Henry – 4.5 stars out of 5

A Horseboy of the Lebanon, a Templar Knight, and intimate desert secrets.  A bit of history, a bit of the supernatural.  A short story I found that works on every level, it kept me connected and involved in the action and the time period.  Great job.

There are many in the 4 star to 3 star range. Those I enjoyed as well.  And won’t cover here.  There were only a few that I was disappointed in.  That’s a great number is an anthology this size.

The Gate by J. S. Cook – 2.75 stars out of 5 (21 pages)

A gay man sees a seedier, dark side of the wartime effort.  Set in the 40’s during the wartime, I felt this went nowhere.  Little setup, little ending.  I know the author was going for noir but it went south instead.

The Rendering by J. Inman – 1 star

Fat gay guy goes on a date set up by a computer dating service and ends up….

Well, I saw the ending coming from the very beginning.  Why?  For starters, I knew the historical ingredients of the product being sold and the links being made in the story.  The clues were obvious as to where it was going to go.  Some have called this fat shaming…others strictly horror.  I thought it just beyond obvious and boring.  That it came from one of my favorite authors made me want to cry.  That’s the horror.

Those are the highs and the lows.  The highs and all the terrific stories in the middle far outweigh the lows.  I highly recommend this anthology.  Its a feast all around.  Pick it up and start sampling.

Cover is simple and it works.

Sales Links:  DSP Publications

Book Details:

ebook, 360 pages
Published May 10th 2016 by DSP Publications (first published March 10th 2016)
ISBN 1634773608 (ISBN13: 9781634773607)
Edition LanguageEnglish

Review: Dinner at Home by Rick R. Reed

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Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5

Dinner at Home coverIn one day Ollie D’Angelo lost everything.  Ollie was dumped by his boyfriend, fired from his job, and his home which was technically his ex’s.  But instead of being shattered Ollie found himself exhilarated.  Freed of all that had held him in a job he had no passion for and a boyfriend he only thought he loved, Ollie found he could turn his passion for food into a business that filled him with joy and a renewed sense of purpose.  Before Ollie knows it his Dinner at Home, a home-catering business, takes off and becomes a success.

Soon Ollie finds himself thinking that he needs an assistant and finds one in the most unexpected way.  While out on a delivery, Ollie finds a young man attempting to rob his car.  But instead of turning the thief over to the police, Ollie finds himself taking the young man home for a much needed meal.  Hank Mellinger, the would be their, isn’t a criminal but a starving young man desperately trying to feed himself and the four-year-old niece he is now responsible for.  Robbing Ollie’s car was his last act of desperation.

Like Ollie, Hank finds that one moment can change his life as well as his niece’s.  Hank becomes Ollie’s assistant and potentially something more as the attraction builds between them.  But Hank’s isn’t out and his fears about his past must just block any future in store for them all.  Can two very different men with a passion for food find the courage to believe in a future for them both?

Rick R. Reed’s newest story, Dinner at Home, drew me in as a reader for a number of reasons.  One is that amazing cover by Reese Dante that just makes you grin with the total enjoyment and openness seen in that model’s face.  The other is that I love stories about chefs, food and recipes and this had it all covered.  Plus it offered the addition of a romance to boot.  What I found was a bunch of new recipes, some lovely characters and a story that was unexpectedly a little dark.

When diving into this story, you receive unanticipated benefits right off the mark.  Each chapter opens with a recipe that will make your mouth water. The book is laid out like a menu.  The prologue is the definition of an Amuse-Bouche, an appetizer that is one small mouthful, then it goes on to Winter and then Summer dishes. The first chapter is a scrumptious recipe for Sinfully Soft Scrambled Eggs that sent me running to the kitchen to try it out.  It lives up to its name as it is sinfully delicious.  I thought I had made great scrambled eggs before.  Nuhuh.   Try this recipe out and it will become your comfort food go to recipe. The same holds true for all the dinners and meals laid out here.  Thankfully, Reed included a section with all the recipes at the end so you can have it at hand when you need it.  And trust me, you will need it often.  This man knows his food and his ingredients!

Secondly, there is Reed’s characters.  I loved Ollie.  Big hearted, passionate about his food, and generous in all ways, Ollie is a man to love.  That his life is shattered overnight is believable, especially in these economic times.  And equally true, Ollie was in a great place in which to make some positive life changing decisions.  You could believe in Ollie and you do.  And just as Ollie is emotionally and financially well off, Hank is his opposite.  For Hank, life has been one struggle after another.  That along with some poor choices, a mother who was juggling with her own demons, Hank is one troubled young man.  His passion?  Food.  But as a excon, the jobs he is able to get are on the lower end of the pay scale with little future involved.   Rick R. Reed makes us believe in him too.

Less believable?  Hank’s four year old niece, Addison,  who seems to be a combination of Roseanne Barr and tiny tot.  I have read other similar child characters whose dialog and actions came across as more realistic than Addison does.  She doesn’t ruin the story for me but neither does she improve it, in my opinion.  Others may love her character and find her an utter joy. She is one of those love her or hate her personas that has an equal effect on the story and reader.

Rose, a traumatized young woman who becomes part of this family, is a character I found that I wanted more of.  She just appears suddenly in this story and has a horrible back history.  I don’t feel that Reed laid any foundation for her startling change into a totally different young woman at the end of the story. Had she been slowly worked into the narrative with the same care and attention to detail that Hank and Addison were then I think Dinner at Home would have felt like a deeper, more layered story than it appears to be.

Did I love parts of Dinner at Home?  Absolutely, starting with Ollie and the recipes.  Other parts left me puzzled and curiously hungry for more, as if some elements of a main dish had been left out during the preparation.  Once you start eating, you enjoy it but can tell from the aroma and taste that the promise of the dish is still out there waiting to be completed.  That’s how I feel about Dinner at Home, almost there, just needs a little more umami to bring it home.

If you are a fan of Rick R. Reed, you will love this story.  If you love food and recipes to die for, this is your story.  Lovers of M/M romance will enjoy this book, with reservation.  I certainly enjoyed it enough to recommend it.

Cover art by Reese Dante.  I loved this cover, It draws you in and makes you want to get to know the characters pictured on the cover.

Buy Links:   Dreamspinner Press        ARe             Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 206 pages
Published May 9th 2014 by Dreamspinner Press (first published May 8th 2014)
ISBN 162798836X (ISBN13: 9781627988360)
edition languageEnglish

Winner Announcements and the Week Ahead in Reviews, Book Tours and Giveaways

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 It’s been a busy week at ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords with May ending and June  just beginning.  It feels like summer is about to begin.  Vacation for some, beach for some, and plenty of wonderful books to read and listen to for all.

Up this week I have cowboys, a mad historical impersonation, chefs, a mystery, and some mad knitters.  Two long awaited sequels are here.  One is Amy Lane’s Blackbirds Knitting in a Bunny’s Lair.  For those of you who have been following this Granby series and want to  know what happened to Jeremy Bunny, here is your answer.  And Sue Brown continues with her Isle of Wight series with Isle of Waves.  Don’t miss a day this week.

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Congratulations to the following winners of 3 Authors Book Contests.  They have been notified.  Thank you to all who left comments!  Happy Reading!

 

 Winner Announcements!

Winner of RJ Scott’s Giveaway is penumbrareads(at)gmail(dot)com

Winner of Katey Hawthorne’s Fairy Bound giveaway is MHupp20032003 (at) yahoo (dot) com

Winner of S.A. McAuley’s Powerless Book Giveaway is H.B.

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The Week Ahead at ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords:

Monday, June 2:             Let It Ride Book Tour with L.C. Chase (contest)

Monday, June 2:             Let It Ride (Pickup Men #2) by L.C. Chase

Tuesday, June 3:             Book Blast/Contest: Their Plane From Nowhere by Princess So

Wed., June 4:                   Dinner at Home by Rick R. Reed

Thursday, June 5:           Blackbird Knitting in the Bunny’s Lair by Amy Lane

Friday, June 6:                 On Tour with D.T. Peterson and The Cove (contest)

Friday, June 6:                The Isle of Waves by Sue Brown

Sat., June 7:                      The Actor and the Earl by Rebecca Cohen

Review: Beau and the Beast by Rick R. Reed

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Rating: 4.5 stars

Beau and the Beast coverBeau is a street artist barely scrapping painting portraits of tourists by on the pier in Seattle.  On a good day, he makes enough selling his portraits to get a room in a hourly motel for the night and some soup for dinner.  And on the bad days? Well, the doorways of shops are his home and  hunger his companion. On this night, Beau’s feeble luck runs out.  He is late leaving his customary location on the pier and is making his way back the alleyway where he will sleep when he is jumped and brutally attacked by a gang of thugs.  When Beau awakens, he is bandaged and alone in a luxurious bed unable to remember what has happened to him. Then a terrifying figure opens to the door to the bedroom. The man’s form is huge and formidable but it is what he is wearing on his face that frightens Beau.  The man is wearing a hood and the mask of a wolf, all Beau can see are his eyes, eyes that ask Beau to trust him.

When Beau can talk, he finds out that the man rescued him and brought him home to heal from the attack.  When asked his  name, all he says is to call him “Beast” because that is who he is.  As Beau heals, the two men grow close but the “Beast” will disclose little of who he is. Beau yearns to know more about the man behind the mask, the man he is falling in love with.  When faced with the reality behind the Beast’s mask, will the burgeoning love  Beau feels for the Beast be destroyed or is beauty truly in the eye of the beholder?

Beau and the Beast is Rick R. Reed’s version of the timeless tale, “Beauty and the Beast,” by Jeanne-Marie Le Prince de Beaumont.  Rick R. Reed has remained true to the original story while still putting his own touches to a tale renown for its storied love affair and message of the heart.  The concept of love being so strong that it can overcome all obstacles including a hideous visage is so profound, so awe inspiring that we have seen version after version of this fairy tale, from the animated Disney movie to the wonderful television series Beauty and the Beast from the 80’s.  Now Rick R. Reed adds his book to the list of renditions and it is a most welcome one.

Reed’s love for this story carries through his version in every aspect.  The author depicts Beau’s harsh life with vivid descriptions, bringing us close to the young artist barely making it through life.  And Reed’s Beast is both enigmatic and majestic beneath his wolf mask.  The author’s gifted narrative pulls in the reader so throughly that you can feels the loneliness of the lives they lead and how fear is keeping them back from the love they are starting to feel for each other.  It is so easy for their emotions to become yours. Rick R. Reed’s Beau and the Beast is both haunting and lovely, doing more than justice to the original that inspired him.

I have read other books by Rick R. Reed but this is the first that I have reviewed, a fact I can’t understand as I have always enjoyed his writing.  So look forward to more of this author’s works to be reviewed here.  They range from the humorous to the dramatic, and I will be reviewing both. If you are not familiar with Rick R. Reed, definitely start here.  You won’t be sorry.  My only quibble with this story is I wished for much more as it is only 62 pages long.  A perfect length, however, for a winter’s eve or afternoon before the fireplace, to revisit a fairytale reborn once more.

Twas the Week Before Christmas Poem And My Reviews!

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Twas The Night Before Christmas (with my apologies to Clement Clarke Moore)

Twas the week before Christmas and all through the house,santa-paws-dog-christmas-outfit-urbanpup

all the creatures were bonkers, even the house mouse.

All the stockings were ready to hang with great care

but then Kirby found them, ate some and gave us a great scare.

Then a present was trampled (don’t ask) so off to the store we ran,

to see lots of  people frazzled and scrambling, grabbing whatever they can

So home we trudged to  our brightly lit house,

where penguins and snowmen blinked and waved all about.

Inside there awaited dog bones and treats galore, some cookies,

And carrot cake, eggnog and much more.

The yarn was stocked up, backup projects at hand, all was ready, all was right!

So we got out the wine and said to all Merry Christmas and a most jolly good night!

Review Schedule:

So here we are at Christmas week and still cooking to do.  Here is my schedule for the week, barring problems with elves and reindeer mishaps:

Monday, 12/24:              A Great Miracle Happens There by Kim Fielding

Tuesday, 12/25:              Thoughts on Books Covers, Books or is Fabio Obsolete?

Wednesday, 12/26:        A Gentleman’s Agreement by J. Roman

Thursday, 12/27:            Sullivan (Leopard’s Spots #7) by Bailey Bradford

Friday, 12/28:                 Beau and the Beast by Rick R. Reed

Saturday, 12/29              Scattered Thoughts Best Covers of 2012

That’s the plan, and you know what they say about plans…… anyhow, Merry Christmas, Happy Winter Solstice at day late!